FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered thoughts on a number of topics at JetBlue Park following the Sox’ full workout today. Among them:
– With Jacoby Ellsbury entering his final season before he becomes eligible for free agency, Cherington suggested that he doesn’t have any concerns that his uncertain contract status will become an issue for the player or team.
“I really don’t see it as a distraction at all. He’s a very routine-oriented, regimented player who takes care of himself, has always done that, obviously talented, knows what he needs to do to get ready for a season. And he’s got a lot to play for,” said Cherington. “He’s missed time two of the last three seasons because of traumatic, on-field injuries. You can’t fault him for that. Obviously we know how good he was when he was healthy in 2011. I just think he’s really excited to feel good, motivated to play this year. I don’t think he’s distracted at all.”
– The Red Sox medical staff has come under recent scrutiny, with an ESPNBoston.com report describing “open warfare” between factions of the team’s medical staff in recent years. However, Cherington noted that the team has spent the last two offseasons restructuring its medical staff and parting ways with some of the individuals (former team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill, former team trainer Mike Reinold) who have been at the heart of those controversies.
“As everyone knows, we’ve gone through quite a bit of change the last two years. We really had a two-year process of reorganizing the medical staff. This offseason was Year Two of two years,” said Cherington. “It was all done with the intent of putting not just the most talented group together, but a group that would work together seamlessly, put the players first and earn the players’ trust and develop credibility with the players. There’s a number of changes that have happened toward that goal. The irony is that if things are going well in that area, we’re not talking about it nearly as much as we have, and you’re not hearing from the medical staff. That’s our hope going forward, that we’re hearing from the guys in uniform a lot more and the guys in the training room less. That’s our expectation. Everything that I’ve seen, these stories that have been out there, they’re really about things that happened in the past and not things going on right now. Our focus is right now.”
Cherington said that while there’s been some discussion of employing Reinold in some capacity (likely as a consultant), there is no such agreement in place right now.
– Though Cherington said that Mike Napoli and David Ortiz might not be playing in the first games of the spring training season, he suggested that the outlook for both sluggers is promising. An MRI on Thursday showed that Napoli’s hips have not deteriorated since he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis. As such, he’s been cleared for an increase in activity. Cherington said that Ortiz is “in great shape,” noting that he’s taking some ground balls at first base in addition to hitting. That, suggested Cherington, bodes well for his availability at the start of the regular season.
“We’re probably going to play cautious a little bit with both guys,” said Cherington. “We’ve got a fair amount of time in camp. We’re much more concerned about the 162-game schedule than we are the spring training schedule.”
– Asked about the recent suggestion by Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford that the environment around the Sox was “toxic,” and former Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez‘s claim that the organization was hindered by communications issues at the management level, Cherington felt little need to offer a rebuttal.
“We made a trade last year as everyone knows. It was a trade we felt made sense for the team at the time,” he said. “It was not about the players involved, in terms of any issues we had with them. Nick Punto, Josh Beckett, along with Adrian and Carl, good guys, talented players, certainly some of those guys had done a lot for the Red Sox over a long period of time. At the time, I said I wish them well, and I still wish them well. Again, we’re focused on the guys we have here now.”
– While the idea of carrying 13 pitchers to open the season is a possibility, Cherington stated a clear preference to go with 12, especially given that Ortiz is a full-time DH who offers little positional depth.
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